Famous artist creates enormous artwork on Doncaster playing field

What you get if you cross a best selling children’s author with a robot?

Wednesday, 25th September 2019, 6:22 pm
Updated Monday, 30th September 2019, 2:30 pm

Well this week, it will be beautiful, enormous land art decorating the route of the UCI world cycling championships as they pass through Doncaster.

The arts development organisation Doncaster Creates has drafted in the children’s writer and illustrator Liz Million to create a design to put next to the Leger Way.

And then a specially programmed robot was sent into action to copy the picture onto the grass at Sandall Beat playing fields, near Doncaster Racecourse.

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Vicky Prior, project manager for Doncaster Creates, looks at the land art on Sandall Beat playing fields
Vicky Prior, project manager for Doncaster Creates, looks at the land art on Sandall Beat playing fields

The robot is a self-powered line drawing machine that usually paints the lines on football pitches. The operator can just push a button and leave it to the task.

But Gray Brindle, the technical sales manager of the firm that provides the machine, Rigby Taylor, said it had been specially programmed to draw Liz’ artwork instead.

He said: “Doncaster is the first place to do this with one of our machines, and it took the machine about two hours to do the whole thing.

“We had to go the the manufactures in Denmark to get a program to make it do the art, and it came back to us on a memory stick. I’m really pleased with how its looking.

Richard Peel, contractor for Rigby Taylor, with the robot used for putting land art onto Sandall Beat playing fields

Vicky Prior, the project manager on the scheme for Doncaster Creates, said: “It’s great. They just put an image file in the robot, and off it goes. It’s just like the chalk drawings you see on hills.

“Liz took her drawing to some of the schools in Doncaster – Shaw Wood, Town Fields and Woodfield – and worked with the children doing drawing exercises. We are looking at getting them to come up with ideas that we can put into a judging panel, with the winning design used in the next one, for another sporting event next year.”

The picture was designed so it could be picked up by television cameras filming the cycle races from a helicopter.

But the organisers have faced a battle with the rain. They have been out to put a second coat on the lines using a conventional line drawing machine, pushed by a worker, to make sure it is still there on the day of the race.

Pupils from Southfield Primary School, Armthorpe, with book illustrator Liz Million, during at Cast theatre, Doncaster, earlier this year

Liz said: “I was really honoured to be asked to take part in such an unusual project. To be honest I was rather nervous about my artwork being seen on SUCH a large scale as my little illustrations are usually found in children's picture books. The largest paintings that I have created are murals all around the country, some up to 12 metres long and 8 metres high. My tiny brain couldn't comprehend how a little robot could plan all the lines out without my help!

“My original ideas incorporated Doncaster's history with the miners, the cycle race and the racecourse but this was far too complicated. I had a play about with bees and a smiling mother nature image that represented the eco future and it also resembled Ladies Day headwear in the end.

“I created a few different designs and they all had to be checked over to make sure the robot could handle all the intricate turns. I had to simplify the artwork a lot but hopefully it didn't detract from the final design. Doncaster Creates have been great to work for and have supported me throughout the project. Being an artist I naturally had some wobbles about being so far out of my comfort zone but I am SO pleased with the outcome. I've always wanted to be like Neil Buchanan in Art Attack creating large scale artwork and look at me now! My friends are very impressed saying that even aliens get to view my work now.”